Discovery Zone (DZ) was a chain of entertainment facilities featuring games and elaborate indoor mazes designed for young children, including slides, climbing play structures and ball pits. The chain was founded by Ronald Matsch, Jim Jorgensen and Dr. David Schoenstadt in 1989. The first location was opened in Lenexa, Kansas, in January 1990. An early investor and vocal supporter of the company was tennis player Billie Jean King.
Other places similar to Discovery Zone include Chuck E. Cheese's (which eventually acquired many of the stores), Major Magic's, The Jungle: Fun and Adventure, Planet Play, and Wonder Camp (a chain that closed in 1997). McDonald's started a similar chain called Leaps and Bounds that merged into Discovery Zone in 1994.
IPO and merger
Discovery Zone completed a successful IPO in June 1993 (led by Chris Bellios, Sam Jeremenko and Steven Noe) raising over $50 million. In 1994, Discovery Zone merged its operations with Blockbuster Video and its parent Viacom. Sumner Redstone managed to shift the assets to Blockbuster and move operations to Chicago. He told numerous college students at the 1995 annual meeting how "solid" an investment this would be. Discovery Zone filed bankruptcy shortly after.
Stretched thin by expansion, changes in management tried to save the company; however, Discovery Zone filed for bankruptcy on March 26, 1996 in Wilmington, Delaware with debts of up to $366.8 million. By the end of 1999, Chuck E. Cheese's had purchased approximately 500 of DZ's locations and turned many of them into Chuck E. Cheese's facilities while shutting down the rest.